BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health and Infectious Diseases Resurgence



Globally, infectious diseases have remained the leading cause of death. Years ago, scientists assumed that the battle against these diseases was finally over; unbeknownst to them, this battle was far from being over. Events in the last few decades emphasize this persistence. New diseases such as AIDS, Legionnaire disease, and hanta-virus pulmonary syndrome have emerged while diseases that seemed eradicated such as malaria and tuberculosis are re-surging. The resurgence of previously conquered infections may be due to factors that include the characteristics of the pathogen and inefficient public health standards to guarantee their extinction.

Emerging infectious diseases (EID) are diseases whose incidence have increased in recent years, with the potential to continue increasing in the future. They usually have the following characteristics: have not or rarely occurred in human population before, occurred in the past and affected few people in secluded locations or have just been recently identified. On the other hand, re-emerging infectious diseases are diseases that caused national or global health problems in the past and were eradicated, but somehow have re-surfaced again to constitute outbreaks. Emerging and Re-emerging diseases go hand in hand- sometimes, infectious disease specialists classify the latter as a subcategory of the former. Reemerging infections account for about 12% of all human pathogens and may result from the following:

  • Complacency, carelessness and lack of effective public health standards (Drug resistant tuberculosis, Poliomyelitis)
  • Newly identified organism (Severe acute respiratory syndrome, HIV/AIDS)
  • Evolution of a known strain (Influenza, Tuberculosis)
  • Spread to a new population (West Nile fever)
  • Spread to a region undergoing ecologic transformation (Lyme disease)
  • Microbial adaption (Influenza A)
  • Changing human susceptibility, demographics and trade (HIV, SARS)
  • Climate and weather (West Nile Disease )
  • Economic development and invention (Antibiotic resistant strains)
  • Poverty and social inequality (Tuberculosis)
  • Bioterrorism (2001 Anthrax attacks)
  • Dam and irrigation system construction (Malaria and other mosquito borne diseases)
  • Zoonotic encounters (HIV)

Notably, Tuberculosis for instance re-emerged due to the evolution of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, the causative organism. This pathogen evolved and became resistant to the antibiotics it was once sensitive to. This occurs through mutation, genetic exchange or abuse of antibiotics.  Malaria has also become drug resistant and the vector, mosquito, has acquired resistance to pesticides. Furthermore, the resurgence of diseases such as diphtheria and whooping cough (pertussis) was due to inadequate vaccination which occurs when the proportion of immune individuals in a population falls below an expected threshold.

Despite the challenges of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, research shows that there is hope; noteworthy breakthroughs include:

  • Increased vaccination
  • Development of HIV protease-inhibitor drugs which when used in combination with other anti-HIV drugs, dramatically decreases deaths from AIDS
  • Research on the ecology of disease organisms—their reservoirs, modes of transmission, and vectors, revealing preventive measures to interrupt disease cycle and prevent outbreaks.

Comments are closed.